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PhD Internship Opportunity: Helping Innovators to Manufacture

Applications are invited from highly motivated PhD students to undertake a three month, full time internship (or up to 6 months part time), developing a stream of work to establish the challenges and opportunities of supporting innovators to scale up the manufacturing of prototype hardware products. The internship will be hosted by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), which is Innovate UK’s network partner, with support from the Innovation Caucus. The Innovation Caucus is an initiative funded by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which are both part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). A key aim of the Innovation Caucus is to support innovation-led growth and promote greater engagement between the social sciences and businesses.

UKRI and others invest significantly in getting many businesses to prototype stage. This challenge has been described as a ‘valley of death’. However, a ‘second valley of death’ occurs when innovators look to move from prototype to full manufacturing. By identifying the key challenges and gaps in the current support landscape, the intern will help develop intervention strategies aimed at ensuring that innovations are commercialised and, where possible, manufacturing is retained in the UK and full value is realised. This internship is part of a larger programme of work, aimed at assisting the KTN to establish the most effective means of helping innovators to manufacture.

The internship will have the following key deliverables:

  1. A literature review providing context for the main challenge themes in the context of hardware commercialisation and scaling-up manufacturing (Design for Manufacture; manufacturing strategy, including production scale up; supply networks; investment; regulation and standards; culture and leadership).
  2. Mapping the support currently available in this area. This will include support from academics, Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) (e.g. High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres), consultancies and support agencies (KTN, Innovate UK, Scottish Enterprise, Invest NI, etc.).
  3. Conduct some qualitative interviews with innovators in order to identify their support needs. Mapping challenges faced by innovators (identified through the literature review and interviews) against the existing suite of tools, expertise, support, funding, resources, etc. available. Prioritise and identify where the gaps are.
  4. Report with recommendations for how best KTN can provide support in future (e.g. using a SWOT analysis or similar to collate findings and distil some potential strategies).


Person Specification

The intern will need to have:

  • the ability to work with academics and engage with academic debates to identify insights and make connections across research and policy;
  • a broad understanding of the social sciences, and appreciation of how the social sciences can contribute to the economy and society;
  • an interest in how social science disciplines can be applied to generate insights for businesses and innovation.
  • an interest in the challenges relating to commercialising hardware and scaling up manufacturing.

It is also desirable that the candidate will have:

  • an interest in and/or experience of conducting previous research into the impact of innovation activities;
  • the ability to synthesize research findings into outputs for non-academic audiences, e.g. using infographics;
  • excellent communication skills and the ability to work in a client-focused role.


Dates of Internship

By agreement, but we are aiming for a start date of 1st September 2019 and ideally to complete the internship by 31st December 2019.



KTN’s main office is in London, but there is scope to work remotely from the PhD student’s home institution and to accommodate flexible working arrangements. The intern will be expected to attend meetings in London (and potentially in Swindon and Sheffield) on an ad hoc basis.


Funding and time commitment

A total of £4,500 will be paid in equal monthly instalments over the agreed duration of the internship (e.g. a £1,500 per month stipend for 3 months, if working on the internship on a full-time basis). The flexibility to undertake the internship on a part time basis is designed to accommodate restrictions on working hours for international students with a Tier 4 student visa. International applicants will need to be registered for their studies with a UK institution. Travel to meetings and other agreed expenses will be reimbursed in addition to the stipend. The funds will be transferred to the university at which the PhD student is registered, and the stipend and travel expenses will be paid by the PhD student’s home institution.


Application Process

Please send a letter of application, outlining your interest in the project and position as a PhD intern with the Innovation Caucus, and details of how your skills and experience make you well suited to undertake the internship.

Applications should be sent to by Friday 19th July at 17:00.

Please ensure that the university at which you are registered agrees to support your application.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview, which may be conducted online. Interviews will take place during the week commencing 12th August.

For informal enquiries about the technical requirements for this internship, please contact Professor Tim Vorley, For enquiries about the application process, please contact Dr Katy Wing,